All parents want their children to achieve academic victories and be rewarded with a multitude of choices in schools and careers as they become adults. Whether you hired a tutor because your child is struggling in math or needs help with SAT prep, the relationship between parents, student and tutor is a true partnership. And good communication is at the core of that relationship.
So, how can you interact successfully with them and make sure your child is getting everything he or she needs? Tutoring experts such as Amanda LeBleu, director of franchise support at Club Z!; David Ullendorff, owner of Mathnasium; Beverly Collins, senior VP of educational development at Huntington Learning Centers; and Asa Anderson, a tutor for Compass Education Group, shed some light on how to establish an open line of communication with your child’s tutor that will result in academic success for your child.
Ask the Right Questions
“Communication is the cornerstone of the tutoring process,” says LeBleu. And it goes both ways. “You should feel comfortable asking your child’s tutor questions, and the tutor should be open to talking to you as well.”
Early on in the process, it’s vital to talk with your tutor or learning center about their procedures and policies.
“Come prepared and ask questions,” says Ullendorff. “Will you help my child with homework? Will you assess my child and, if yes, what does that assessment entail?”
You might think you know where the academic trouble stems from, but an educational assessment from the tutor will not only show the root, but may also illustrate the missing link to what’s causing the current crisis. Find out if the assessment is written or oral, if the tutor is calculating previous test history into the results and whether your child is being measured by what grade he or she is in, state standards or national core standards.
“And, finally, ask the tutor how he or she will make the chore of academics fun, non-intimidating and comfortable for your child,” concludes Ullendorff.
Avoid the “Fix My Kid” Syndrome
It’s extremely important to articulate your thoughts, concerns and questions about your child’s academic needs and communicate them to the tutor.
“Don’t just put out tonight’s fire,” says Ullendorff. “If you think your child needs help in a subject, tackle the whole problem, not just the instant gratification of one homework assignment.”
A lot of parents walk into a tutoring situation with the “Fix My Kid” syndrome and are relieved to hand over their child’s academic challenges to someone else. However, not being involved isn’t the solution.
Set Realistic Goals
Finding the right balance between your child’s academic abilities and your expectations will help you set goals and see positive results. Sit down with your child and tutor, and make a list that highlights academic areas needing improvement, along with objectives that each party is willing and able to meet.
And success isn’t measured only on the report card. Tutoring can help your child build key personality traits.
“You should look for improvements in not only your child’s skills, but in their confidence and motivation,” says Collins.
Make sure you and the tutor discuss and evaluate these less tangible goals as well.
“At the end of the day, I think that every child’s success is relative; parents and students themselves need to have a good idea of where they excel and where they need to work harder,” says Anderson. She believes there is some truth in receiving an “A for Effort.”
“While it’s important to set goals for both students and tutors, I also put emphasis on praising persistence and not only raising the child’s grade. Each child has a differing skill set, but not every child really learns work ethic.”
Be Present and Track Progress
Since your child’s education is a partnership, it’s essential for you to be present throughout his or her tutoring process.
“Parents often think they can leave the work up to the tutor,” says Collins. “But it really has to be the tutor, the child, the child’s school and the parents all working together.”
You don’t want to be a helicopter parent, but you need to stay on top of what is happening. If you can fit it into your schedule, it’s a good idea to sit in on tutoring sessions occasionally — not hovering, but in earshot — and listen to what they are going over.
Try to use the last five minutes of each tutoring session as an update between you, the tutor and your child.
“Ask about things you should cover with your child when the tutor isn’t around,” says LeBleu. “It will help you stay team-oriented.”
How can you help reinforce what was learned that day? What should you practice before the next session? If your nanny or babysitter picks your child up from the tutor, ask them to have this important chat.
Then, on a regular basis, look over your child’s goals and discuss and reevaluate them with the tutor.
“Ask for monthly progress reports to demonstrate that all three parties — parent, child and tutor — are responsible for meeting goals and tracking the progress,” says Ullendorff. It’s a great check-in time and a way to look at the big picture of how your child is doing.
Involve the Teacher
You should also open the lines of communication between your child’s school and the tutor or tutoring center. Schedule parent-teacher conferences and tutor check-ins to coincide with the end of grading periods or progress reports. “It’s very beneficial for the tutor to talk to your child’s teacher and get feedback on how your child is doing in the classroom,” says Collins. Teachers often give tutors a heads up on material that will be important for future lessons and quizzes. Then the tutor can cover that information with your child ahead of time.
Take It Slow
Know that change will not take place overnight and there will be several ups and downs before you see any real results. Ullendorff suggests that both parents and children commit to giving the program they choose at least three months before deciding whether it works or not.
“It’s easy for a child to give up on tutoring early on because it takes effort to work on academic areas that are challenging,” he notes.
No matter what the circumstances are, becoming involved and establishing an effective dialogue between your child and tutor is important. The road to academic success may be a long one, but the effort will be measured in your child’s confidence and success.
Jennifer Geisman is a freelance writer and faithful beauty junkie living in Los Angeles. Her work can be found here.